George Talks Business - Dave Zilko

Irrational Persistence: Going From Less Than Nothing to a $110M Revenue Stream

image - George Talks Business logoAt the GW School of Business (GWSB), we strongly believe in the concept of lifelong learning for all members of our family, including our students and alumni. Accordingly, we are delighted to launch George Talks Business, a series of guest interviews with notable alumni and respected thought leaders in the business, government and nonprofit arenas who will share insights on a range of topics including technology, leadership, global developments, ethics, and other timely areas of interest.

The second George Talks Business event will be held on Monday, February 4 in Duquès Hall, Room 651. Dr. Lex McCusker, director of Student Entrepreneurship Programs at GW, will interview Dave Zilko (GWSB MBA '87), CEO of Fuel Leadership and former Vice Chairman of Garden Fresh Gourmet.

Dave Zilko

photo - Dave ZilkoDave Zilko founded his first specialty food company more than 20 years ago with a $2,500 credit card loan. While today Dave remains an equity partner in several food-oriented enterprises, he recently exited active involvement in the industry when he engineered the sale of Garden Fresh Gourmet, makers of the number one brand of fresh salsa in North America, to the Campbell’s Soup Company for $231 million. Dave was a partner at Garden Fresh for 13 years, serving as Vice Chairman with primary responsibility for strategy and sales.

In 2016, Dave published a book, via Wiley & Sons nationwide, detailing his experience as an entrepreneur in general and his experiences with Garden Fresh in particular. The book, “Irrational Persistence: Seven Secrets That Turned a Bankrupt Startup Into a $231,000,000 Business,” has become a national bestseller.

Today Dave has invested in and assumed the role of CEO at FUEL Leadership, a digital media property that also organizes exclusive business events. He is an operating partner at Huron Capital, a Detroit-based private equity firm with over $1 billion under management, and serves on the boards of the $60 million Grow Michigan venture fund; Jimmy Buffett's charitable foundation, Singing for Change; and the executive board of the largest food rescue organization in the country, Forgotten Harvest. Dave graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in finance and earned a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the George Washington University.